Perspective During the Holidays

Things To Keep in Mind This Season

I love the Holiday Season as a time for reflection on the past year as well as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones. If I’m being honest, I could do without the cold weather and smoky fires and Christmas trees (I have asthma and all three of these aggravate the condition.) I remember countless Christmases and New Years being sick as a kid. In fact, I’m sick while writing this. All that said, I still get overjoyed and excited around this time of year because of the spirit of giving and love. I love seeing children go to church to celebrate their religion and learn about giving to others. I also love giving children presents and watching their eyes light up as they open their gifts. However, I know the Holidays are not all positive for many, including myself. Even with all the issues I personally have with the Holiday Season, I look forward to it all year. I know others do as well, despite the fact that millions report stress and anxiety during this season. To keep stress at a minimum, there are some things I like to remind myself of during this time of the year. I’m going to share them with you in the hopes that it helps you realize some wonderful experiences.

The Power of Anticipation/ Momentum- While most tend to take their foot off the gas and coast through the Holidays and into the New Year, I use this time to anticipate the coming year to really work hard so that I can build momentum heading into January. This is especially true with my physical training and business preparations. Being in the fitness industry, it’s vital that I build momentum heading into the New Years because those who join the gym during before the end of the year are more likely to stick around after those who didn’t realize their New Year’s resolutions drop off. I also like to kick up my training a notch so that I’m able to use the extra food I consume at parties to build muscle rather than store fat. By increasing the intensity of my training, I also have more energy for all my employees and family. Momentum is very important although most underestimate how valuable it can be. Use the Holidays to build momentum and absolutely drive pedal to the metal into the New Year.

Unrealistic Expectations- I have been guilty of having unrealistic expectations of what Christmas and New Years should be like and have suffered disappointment when my expectations were not met. I think that so many of us are like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation; we have a grand vision of what should happen during the Holidays and how it should happen and then catastrophe occurs because we become so attached to this vision. Now, I’m not usually one for lowering standards, but trading expectation for appreciation is really the key to happiness during this time of year. If we are more appreciative of the time we have with family and friends and less attached to the expectations in our mind, I guarantee less stress and more positive feelings.

What’s Under Your Control- Along the same lines as having unrealistic expectations, it’s important to remember, as always, what is under your control and what it not. You may fall ill during this season. If that happens, it happens! It’s not in your control any longer. You may wish there was a different outcome, but that will not affect the reality of the situation. You also may not receive the present or bonus you wanted. These are also not in your control. Certain family members may not be present at your get-together. Again, this is not in your control. The only thing you can control is yourself and how you act to external events. Therein, lies a big choice. You can choose to be happy and appreciative despite what is happening, or you can let yourself be overcome with stress, grief and disappointments. How? You can always choose to use reason. That is under your control. Everything else is not.

The Importance of Your Health- The stress of the Holidays, the financial stress, the stress of expectations, and the physical stress due to poor food choices and excessive alcohol consumption are very real. Heart-related deaths increase by 5 percent during the holiday season. Fatal heart attacks peak on Christmas, the day after Christmas, and New Year’s Day, according to a national Circulation study. People may also tend to put off health care during the holidays, leading to potentially fatal situations. My advice? The holidays are a time to enjoy the health of you and your loved ones, not ignore it. ‘Tis not the season for gluttony and alcohol abuse. Enjoy the treats and parties, but remember that health is a very serious thing. We tend to forget this until we experience a near death experience or have a family member pass away. Don’t ignore your health this season. Improve it.

What Is Really Important- Lastly, remember what is really important about this time of year. Faith, family, friends, traditions, health- these are all the things that should be celebrated during this special time, not material things. I love to give as much as anyone, but I realize now the most important thing I can give is my presence not my presents. (I know that’s a cliche, but indulge me.) I will say there is one caveat to this; if your family or work parties are not conducive to improving your spirits and health, as in they are blanketed with negativity and excess libations, I suggest it best to skip them and focus on reflecting over the past year and planning where improvements can be made. This may sound harsh, but in the end, you are the most important person in your world because you are the only one in control of you! So make sure the Holidays bring out the best version of you so that you can be a joy for others.

So there you have it. These are the five things I like to remind myself of during this time of year. I think it’s important to reflect them so that the Holiday will be filled with positive emotions rather than negative ones. The Holidays, like another other time of the year is what you make them. I hope this season will be the best one yet for you and your family and loved ones.

In Health,

Sean

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The Dirty Little Holiday Secret

WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

There is a dirty little secret that no one likes to admit about the holiday season. It’s well known that millions suffer from additional stress and anxiety during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Some of this anxiety is due to the additional financial stress from the feelings of guilt about purchasing presents for everyone in our lives. Household credit card debt spikes during the holidays leaving a lingering money problems for millions heading into the New Year. Then there is the stress about traveling and seeing all the members of your family you feel obligated to see. Let’s be honest, we all have some family and friends that require us to consume copious amounts of alcohol just to feel comfortable around. For millions others it’s the time off work that becomes a problem. If you are lucky enough to be paid for the time off, great. If not, not only do the stresses of additional purchases come into play, but also the loss of income. For some, all of the issues listed above are applicable. These, however are not the dirty little secret I’m referring to.

What We Think the Holidays Are

The holidays can be many things to many people. Whatever story we tell ourselves about the meaning of the holidays will become reality. Therefore it is very important to consider what you are telling yourself about what the holidays are. Are they about family? Are the holidays about your faith? Do the holidays mean giving to others? Are they about stressing out? Watching movies like Christmas Story or Die Hard? All of these meanings may be great and they may apply to you, but let me suggest to you what the Holidays and all other days are about. In fact, the Holiday Season is not unlike any other season in what it means for all of us. How can this be? If you look at what we really have control over in our lives versus what is outside our control, the answer is clear. You cannot control external events such as how people act at family parties, what movies are on TV, whether or not you come down with an illness or how much stress others have during this season. You only have control over one thing, your mind and how you decide to take action with it. The special feelings and rituals we have during this season are not exclusive to this time of year. Moreover, the positive lessons of the season are not meant to only be learned and remembered during winter. So the question then becomes, “how do we control our minds an keep the lessons of the holidays all year?” In a word, reflection.

What the Holidays Are Really About-

The Christmas season is considered the “season of miracles”. I think the greatest miracle is the human mind and what it is capable of. In the Bible, Jesus states “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, meaning all of us are capable of cultivating heavenly thoughts and therefore a wonderful life. We can also choose to ignore the miracle of our minds and allow ourselves to be overcome with negative emotions. One advantage of having Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other special holidays near the end of the year is that we are able to reflect on our actions and thoughts over the previous year. I believe that’s what the Holidays are really about- reflection. It is a time to look back at what we have learned, who we have met, what opportunities have come our way, what we are grateful for. This is not just about New Years. The emotions connected with all the Holidays this time of year can sometimes cloud our thinking, but strong emotional environments can also be useful for internal reflection. Sometimes is takes strong emotions for us to realize what is important. It’s important to reflect on what is in our control and what is not. By reflecting on the past year, we can learn much about ourselves and how we responded to things outside our control. For me, I like to write down situations that I was proud of how I acted as well as the times I am not so proud of. Also, what things were in my control that I maybe neglected? What do I need to work? See, the Holiday season is truly a time for miracles, a time to reflect on the miracle of life and our minds. The fact that humans can self-reflect is itself a miracle. We can choose our values and actions- choice is a miracle.

WHAT NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT- IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
So here’s the dirty little secret- the Holidays are really about the most important person in your life…you. Every day is about you. We like to think what we do is for others, but we cannot control others or how they react or feel. We can give all we like, but it’s still for us. We can only control ourselves and our minds. You are the most important person in your life because you are the only one who can control you. If you want to help others this Holiday season, fine, but understand why you are doing it. You are doing it for because it fits with your values and fulfills a need you have to contribute. There’s nothing wrong with that. No reason to feel guilty about it. In fact, it makes you a better person, a better you! Everything you do, even if it’s for others is still for you. Reflect on that this holiday season. Reflect on how you can do more for yourself so that you may help others. Consider what is in your control and what is not so you can live a life with less anxiety and allow yourself to grow. Reflect on what you are grateful for, especially your mind. Reflect on how important you are. To others, to the world, to your loved ones. You are the most important person in your world. So take care of yourself so that you may help take care of others.

Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!!!!

Sean

Picking Your Battles

Much of life is discerning between what is in your control and what is not in your control. So much effort is wasted on things that we have no control over and inevitable pain occurs from the wasted energy. It’s not always easy to establish what we have control over, but once we do, we can properly focus our efforts on taking action. However, as I have gotten a little older, I realize that sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. That is not to say that we should be lazy and do nothing. What I mean is that part of becoming wise is learning how to pick your battles. In other words, the question we should all ask is, “where will our efforts have the most effect?” Picking the right battle is essentially properly allocating your resources and energy. This means that we must ignore less important situations while the major ones are addressed.

I cannot even begin to express how much energy I have wasted fighting the wrong fights. This is especially true being a business owner because I often think that everything is in my control in the business. This is a mistake. Although I’m responsible for the business, I do not have control over every aspect. In business, owners like myself make the mistake of misdiagnosing what areas need the most attention and then we spend enormous amounts of money and energy on things that have very little impact. I’ve done this by focussing on advertising instead of having the sales staff properly trained. I didn’t realize that the ads were not the problem. It was the ability of the staff to close the sale because we had either the wrong people, or they were not trained correctly. This is just one example of picking the wrong battle to fight. Although I had control over both these aspects of my business, one battle would have yielded much more return on investment than the other. I’ve also made the mistake of adding more equipment thinking that would increase sales. In fact, the newer equipment had almost no impact on sales. What did increase sales was remodeling the locker rooms. Interesting.

Just because something is in your control doesn’t mean you have to take action immediately. Rushing into battle unprepared is often worse than taking time to properly analyze the situation and then choosing how and where to attack the problem. Most of us can understand how it would be a mistake to attack an enemy head on where their forces are the most concentrated and you are outnumbered. But that is exactly the mistake we make when we rush into taking action without analyzing where we can be most effective. Again, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should! Sometimes the best course of action is to save up your energy and attack a problem where you will have a huge impact. Think of this as getting a bigger weapon. Don’t throw a rock at a tank just because you’re holding one in your hand. Take the time to find the right weapon to take on the problem.

In health,

Sean

Thoughts Are Not Enough

THE PROBLEM WITH POSITIVE THINKING

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith“ – The Book of Timothy.

Being both an athlete and an owner of a somewhat large business in the fitness industry, I have noticed much more talk about the Law of Attraction and positive thinking as it relates to fitness and sports. Of course, these concepts are nothing new, but they seem to have found new life in social media circles as of late. I’m happy to see that there is an increased focus on the power of thought and philosophy as it relates to physical performance and health. I do, however, become a little concerned when I see so many people post about thinking positive without talking about the other major factor in achievement and health, WORK. Thoughts alone are not enough. You still have to do the work to succeed. Positive thinking without hard work is delusion. It’s the same as walking into a garden and chanting “there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds.” Guess what? There’s probably weeds and they will take over the whole garden without working to rip them out.

In fact, not only does it take work, it takes massive action to achieve your desires and make sure the garden of your life is beautiful. What does that mean? It means that it usually takes even more work than you think it’s going to initially. So be prepared for that. Not only do you have to think positively that you can do something, you must be ready to work as if your life depends on it. I believe like the quote says, much of life is a battle. We all must battle everyday against the negative thoughts we have. We must battle against the obstacles that stand in the way of our goals. We must battle against darkness in the world by becoming a beacon of light. But a battle takes work. Thinking you can win is not enough. You must begin the race by doing the work of taking the first step and then having the belief you can finish and following up to make sure you do. Optimism itself will not do. Positive thinking must lead you to take action for it to be useful.

The last key to making sure win the battle is keeping the faith in yourself and others. What good is it to fight for what you want if you let the fight change you into something you are not proud of? Look all around and you’ll find people who have been jaded and disillusioned because of their struggles in life. This is where positive thinking comes back into play. It takes both hard work and positive thinking, especially while the work is being done. Hard work has the potential to change us into worse versions of ourselves unless we have faith the work is worth it in the long run.

So remember, believe you can succeed, fight the fight to make success a reality and always keep faith in yourself and others that you can persevere and the struggle will be worth it. Remember too that few things worth having ever come easy. Positive thinking alone may only lead to disappointment without applying the massive action needed towards achieving your goals.

 

In Health,

 

A NOTE ABOUT HARD WORK

ON WORKING HARD

There’s an old saying, “It’s better to work smart than work hard.” I think that saying was invented by lazy people to justify not doing the hard work. The truth is, you need to work hard on the right things to get your desired outcome. That’s what working smart really means. It means getting out of your comfort zone and taking MORE ACTION than you think is necessary. Now, here’s the problem: most people underestimate the amount of work that is needed to reach a goal and they overestimate how hard they are actually working. I’ve seen this in the gym and in business. In fact, I’ve been guilty of this myself. I think all of us probably have an example in our lives where we didn’t take enough action to achieve what we wanted. Taking massive action isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Working on the right things is also necessary. But how do we know if we are working on the right things? I would suggest you ask yourself one question to determine if you are working on the right thing…

The question you need to ask yourself, the same question I ask of myself everyday, is, “what is my superpower?” Meaning, what is the thing that you do more effectively than anyone else in your family, company or team? For me, I’m the rainmaker. I make stuff happen. I do best when I’m strategizing and delegating out tasks for others. In other words, if my life was an expedition, there would be people clearing trees, making paths, gathering food and marching forward- I would be the one climbing the tallest tree to make sure we were headed the right direction. I try my best to determine where my company and family is headed and then I come up with the right strategy or tasks that need to occur to allow us to reach our destination. If I’ve done this effectively, I find myself very satisfied because I’m using my superpower to its potential. Anything else I find myself doing other than my superpower, I feel very depleted, tired, moody and unsatisfied. Even if I’m working very hard at other tasks that are not my superpower and I’ve done well at completing the tasks, I know that I still have not worked smart, only hard. Working hard is necessary, but it’s never enough.

This is why I believe billions of people are dissatisfied with where they are in life. Not only are they focussing on the wrong things, they are working on the wrong things because they are not working on the things that are in alignment with their goals. Don’t get me wrong, we all have things to do that we don’t like and may not be in direct alignment with our desires, but my point here is that we should not be spending most of our working life on the wrong things. My assertion is that most of us do. For example, in the gym, if your goal is to have a lean an muscular physique, but all you do is walk on the treadmill, you are working on the wrong things. If you are a CEO or owner of a company, but you are cleaning the toilets and vacuuming the floors, you are working on the wrong things. (This author is guilty as charged with this one!) If you are a parent and your goal is to raise bright, caring, empathetic children, but you fail to read to them nightly and just plop them in front of the television, you are working on the wrong things. If your goal is to earn more money, but you aren’t reading or taking classes to learn new skills so you can take on more responsibility and add value to the marketplace, you are working on the wrong things. (Hint: You don’t get paid for your time. You get paid for the value you bring to the market. That’s why certain people make 8 bucks an hour while others get paid millions a year.) To add value to the marketplace and others, you must work smart on the  right things. You must work hard and work smart. You must learn what your superpower is and embrace it and then cultivate it so you become even more effective.

If you are not where you want to be, it very well may be due to the following traps:
-you are not actually working hard at all
-you have not discovered your superpower
-you are working on the wrong things
-you have not written down your goals
-you don’t believe you are worthy of having more
-you have limiting beliefs about you and other people
-you have faced adversity and failed to learn a positive lesson from the experience
you have not been honest and mindful about when you have fallen into the traps listed above

Do any of the above apply? Be honest. I know I have been guilty of some of these. The key is that I’m mindful of when I fall into the trap and I take action to make sure I get back on the right path and focus on my superpower strengths rather than focussing on things that lead me off the path. Don’t lose sight of where you’re going! Taking massive action on the right things is the key to making sure you get where you want.

In Health,

Sean

Finding a Great Partner part 2.

Finding a Great Partner…. Part 2.

What follows may seem like a love note to my wife. It is. Bear with me….

I’ve written about the importance of harmony in human relations and building a mastermind group in your own life. I’ve also written about having a partner dedicated to realizing your goals as well as their own. This is vital in the gym. Having someone to watch over you, care about you and push you past your own perceived limits will create a huge level of progress for you. The problem of course is finding someone who you harmonize with most of the time as well as having your best interest at heart at all times. It’s easy to make acquaintances. It’s hard to develop real relationships that last and make both parties stronger. If you’ve read Finding a Great Partner part 1, you know that my wife Holly has been my partner in life through marriage and raising a family but also in the weight room. She helps to motivate me to do better than I would do on my own. Because she’s watching, I push harder.

I’ve achieved pro bodybuilder status because I found a great partner, who also led me to finding other great people to surround ourselves with so that we could grow. Indeed, my wife is so special it’s beyond words. She’s not just special because she’s a great wife and mother, she literally makes everything just a little more special. She will go out of her way to make a decoration for a cake because the detail will bring a smile to someones’ face. She will send flowers to her grandparents on their birthday across the country every year. As I write this, I’m reading through a book she created of our family vacation just two weeks ago. The trip was already special, but this book is like the icing on the cake. Now whenever I see it, I will experience the emotions I had on the trip along with the gratitude for having a wife that cares about going above and beyond.

Many think they have someone special in their lives. Here’s how I know; regardless of how long we have been together or where we are in our lives as far as business and parenting, Holly never stops trying a little harder than she did before. She is always looking for ways to make others feel special. She’s the best partner I could ever ask for. I sincerely wish for everyone reading this, that you find someone to partner with in different aspects of your life so that you may grow in those areas. I’ve grown in business because of my wife. I’ve grown in bodybuilding because of my wife. I’ve developed a philosophy on life because of my wife. Most of the times I’m smiling, it’s because I’m thinking about her and how great of a partner she is. I try harder daily because I don’t want to disappoint her. That’s the truth.

So go out and find that partner that loves you AND forces you to grow as a person.

In health,

Sean

What You May Be Lacking

What’s the most important thing in life? Money? Family? Love? I’ve often said in my writings that personal philosophy- a set of guiding principles is the biggest determining factor in the quality of your life. I’ve said this for years, but it wan’t until this year that I realized what truly underpins the development of philosophy and fulfillment. I have had more personal development this year than in the last 10 years. After really focussing on why, I’ve come to the realization that I discovered the most important thing in life, and took advantage of it. So what is it?

The most important thing in life are the relationships we develop with others. Simply put, our associations with others develops in us our philosophy, sense of fulfillment, joy, frustration, depression, ecstasy, anxiety, fear- nearly every emotion we experience as humans stems from our interactions with other people. Humans are social creatures. The reason we have survived so long as a species against larger, more powerful creatures, against the forces of nature, against disease is because of cooperation and the development of language and communication. We well stories and write about our experiences and discoveries so that other generations may learn. The length of human existence will depend largely on the harmonious relationships that can be sustained.

This is also the case with all our individual lives. The quality of and harmony of the relationships we build will affect the quality of our lives more than any other aspect of life. This year I have been lucky enough to develop incredible strong relationships with people that have solidified my faith in others and myself. These relationships have also led to incredible experiences that have helped transform my philosophy towards life. All of this has led to an increase in fulfillment in my day to day experiences because I am grateful most of the time. Before I focussed more on expectation. Today I focus more on appreciation. And that has made all the difference.

So, my advice would be to get out in the world and develop quality relationships that serve you and shape you into the person you’d like to be. Look for honest, gracious and humble people that you admire. Look for mentors you can learn from. Don’t just look in your local area. Relationships can by built across the world today, something not possible even just a few decades ago. Look for people you can be in harmony with, so that you may work together to build something greater than yourselves.

 

P.S.  Don’t allow just anyone into your life.  Make sure they have your best interest at heart.  Even if you’ve known someone for years, make sure they fit your criteria for a harmonious relationship.

 

In Health,

Sean